Running a half marathon with type 1 diabetes: Jack’s story (Part Two)

Two hours and 56 minutes. This was the time in which I completed the Coventry half marathon, which I was satisfied with, but I was primarily relieved that low blood sugar didn’t blight my way around the course.

Building up to Sunday March 1, navigating hypos was my main objective during training, which is why I procured three litres of Lucozade, Jelly Babies, Mars Bars and loaded up a tuck shop of a rucksack to carry with me on the run.

As it turned out, I wouldn’t need the majority of these supplies and it was actually battling high blood sugar that became the theme of my race.

Medication pre-race

The night before, I neglected to inject any long-lasting insulin – of which I normally take 10 units of Levemir. Missing a dose of long-acting insulin is not recommended by health care professionals, but I gambled with this decision to avoid hypoglycemia on race day, knowing there was still Levemir working from the morning before. This led to a higher blood sugar of 15.1 mmol/l in the morning.

Anticipating a morning of nervous Lucozade consumption, I still reduced my morning Levemir dose from 60 units to 40, and injected two units of quick-acting Novorapid to compensate for eating a slice of toast.

Roughly 15 minutes before the race commenced, I tested again, and was 15.3 mmol/l. Although high, I remained fairly confident this would drop as the race began.

Medication mid-race

To my surprise, the drop never happened. In fact, within 30 minutes of light jogging, my blood sugar had risen to 17.6 mmol/l.

Subsequently, I injected two units of Novorapid and this seemed to do the trick. Within an hour, I was down to 11 mmol/l – and I stayed around the 11-12 mark for the duration of the race, consuming roughly 250ml of Lucozade every 35 minutes from then on.

Diabetes.co.uk recent spoke to Scott Allan, who told us he needs to be at around 5 mmol/l before playing football for his team, Hibernian, due to the adrenaline levels that rise during games.

My rise could have perhaps been due to adrenaline, with the several hundred spectators and competitive aspect of running against others not features of my training.

However, this could also have been due to insulin reductions the night before and on the morning, so ascertaining a direct cause is problematic.

Medication post-race

30 minutes after the race, I made the excruciating walk home from Coventry city centre as the backlog of traffic made getting a taxi back impossible.

Dragging my tight, aching muscles to within five minutes of my house, a blood test showed a 19.6 mmol/l reading – the alarming result of the Lucozade settling, which may have been too much on the day, with a lack of insulin working to regulate this rise.

I administered a hearty corrective seven-unit dose of Novorapid and thankfully, for the rest of the day, had no further issues.

A mid-afternoon snack and mid-evening meal with reduced insulin – compared to the carbohydrate I consumed – still kept my blood sugar a little higher than expected throughout the day, but any semblance of hypoglycemia was completely absent.

All things considered, the run was largely a success, with the exception of a pulled groin at the eighth mile, and those rogue high readings, while the proceeding 48 hours has been vigilantly spent monitoring any hypo awareness symptoms.

***None of these medication practises are specifically recommended for anybody else and were tailored only for myself following weeks of preparation. Additionally, missing out a dose of long-acting insulin is generally not advised.

If you have run a long-distance race with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes then let us know! How did your blood sugar levels fare? What did you find worked for you on the day?

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About the author

Jack Woodfield

Jack is Editorial Manager of Diabetes.co.uk. He works hard, plays fair and sleeps whenever possible. He has type 1 diabetes, doesn't mind being called a "diabetic", and once won a talent show for dancing to Dario G’s 1997 hit “Sunchyme”.

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